Barack Obama’s candidate didn’t win the election to become Israel’s next prime minister.
The winner is the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-leaning Likus Party will continue to control the governing Knesset.
President Obama’s critics call this a sharp rebuke of the U.S. president, with whom Bibi has a difficult relationship.
But let’s understand something right off the top: If the bullets and rockets ever start flying in Israel, the United States will be at the side of its most dependable Middle East ally. Of that there can be no question. Netanyahu has acknowledged as much, as has Obama.
So, what’s the big deal with this strained relationship?
It goes most recently to the speech Netanyahu made to Congress without first consulting with the White House. It is centered on Israel’s desire to see greater U.S. sanctions on Iran, with whom we are negotiating a deal to end Iran’s nuclear development program. Obama objected to Netanyahu’s speech, didn’t meet with him when he was in-country — and the Obama foes are raising all kinds of hackles over the frayed relationship.
I don’t buy it.
Here’s what ought to happen: The two men have secured phone lines to each other’s office. One of them — it doesn’t matter who — needs to pick up the phone and start working toward a way to end the public rift.
It’s in both leaders’ best interest. They both know it and my hunch is that they well might already have had that chat.